Book Reviews

Book Review: “How High We Go In The Dark” by Sequoia Nagamatsu


This is a book about death. Let me say that up front. It’s also a book about life after death – as in the lives of the people whose loved ones are facing or have passed the threshold of death. As post-pandemic novels go, this one ranks among the best I’ve read.

A pandemic. A dying child. A VR suicide group. A slow recovery. A spaceship. Thousands of years of longing experienced in a single lifetime.

“How High We Go In The Dark” reads like a series of short stories, tied together by time and global events. It’s contemplative in a way readers of “Station Eleven,” “Severance,” and “The Memory Police” will recognize. What sets this book apart from the others is its lack of a central progagonist or linear threaded story. In “How High We Go In The Dark” each chapter is a first-person narrative of a character met once, diary like in its presentation. Each chapter stands alone and can be read as a singular unit. This is accentuated by the audiobook having a different narrator for each chapter.

Every word steeped in melancholy and longing, this book is not for those who seek joy and excitement. It roots in a deep sense of grief for a dying people, a dying planet; reflecting the nebulous grief and loss of past normality we’ve all experienced over the 3+ years of the COVID-19 pandemic.

What’s missing is relief: reading “How High We Go In The Dark” is riding perpetually just behind a creating wave – feeling it’s resolutions within reach but never quite getting there.

Read, with caution and emotional support.

Inspired by Christina Stathopoulos, MSc‘s #BookAMonthChallenge and Mordy Golding‘s yearly book summary I’m committing myself to posting reviews of all the books I read in 2023. This is the first.